Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Shoftim 5776



Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Shoftim 5776

Kingship in Our Times


In this week’s parashah the Torah discusses the laws of appointing a king over the Jewish People. It is difficult for us to imagine in our times what it means to have a Jewish king, as the Jewish monarchy has been defunct for some two thousand years. Yet, in some sense we are required to fulfill this mitzvah of appointing a king, as every Jew must attempt to perform the mitzvos that are within his abilities. The Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 497) raises an obvious question. We know that once Dovid HaMelech was anointed as king of the Jewish People, there was no longer a mitzvah to appoint a king. This being the case, how could there be a mitzvah for future generations to anoint a king?

We are still under the Rule of Kings

The Chinuch answers that the mitzvah is not limited to appointing a king. Rather, included in the mitzvah is to appoint a new king when necessary, to establish the kingship of an heir to the previous king, to fear the king and to conduct oneself with the king according to the Torah’s instructions. These facets of the mitzvah are certainly prevalent forever. This idea described by the Chinuch also has its applications in our daily lives. In our current exile we are under the yoke of the local government, and the Gemara (Brachos 17a) states that it is our will to perform HaShem’s will. However, we are held back because of the seor shebiisah, the yeast in the dough, i.e. the Evil Inclination, and the subjugation of the gentile kings.

The Shabbos Connection

On Shabbos, however, we recite in Kegavna the words kad ayil Shabbsa ihi isyachadas viisparashas misitra achara vichol dinin misabrin minah, when the Shabbos arrives, she unified herself in Oneness and divests herself of the Other Side, [any trace of evil] all harsh judgments are removed from her. Thus, the Evil Inclination and the rule of the nations of the world cease to dominate us on the Holy Shabbos. Furthermore, the theme of Shabbos, which is reflected in the prayer of Kabbalas Shabbos which we recite at the onset of Shabbos, is the reign of HaShem, Who is the King of all kings. Thus, every week we are given the opportunity to, so to speak, appoint HaShem as our king, and no force in the world can prevent us from that wonderful opportunity. We are now in the month of Elul and we are preparing ourselves for the upcoming Days of Awe, when we will once again proclaim HaShem as our King and King of the whole world. It is worthwhile to reflect on the meaning of kingship and to realize that our true aspiration should be to have HaShem as our king, as we recite daily in Shemone Esrei hashivah shofteinu kivarishona viyoatzeinu kivatchila vihaseir mimenu yagon vaanacha umloch aleinu miheira atah HaShem livadcho bichesed uvirachamim, restore our judges as in earliest times and our counselors as at first; remove from us sorrow and groan; and speedily reign over us – You, HaShem, alone – with kindness and compassion.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Dror Yikra

The composer was Dunash ben Librat, the famed medieval grammarian and paytan who lived from 4680-4750 (920990 C.E.). He was born in Baghdad and, except for twenty years in Fez, lived there his entire life. He was a nephew and disciple of Rabbeinu Saadiah Gaon and was acquainted with many of the Sages of his time. Rashi and Ibn Ezra quote him extensively. His name appears four times as the acrostic of the stiches in stanzas 1,2,3, and 6. This zemer is a prayer to HaShem to protect the Jewish People, destroy its tormentors, and bring the Nation peace and redemption.

נְתוֹץ צָרַי בְּאַף וְעֶבְרָה. שְׁמַע קוֹלִי בְּיוֹם אֶקְרָא, smash my foes with wrathful anger; hear my voice on the day I call. What is the association between HaShem smashing our foes and hearing our prayers? Perhaps the answer to this question is that it is said (Tzefaniah 3:14-15) רָנִּי בַּת צִיּוֹן הָרִיעוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל שִׂמְחִי וְעָלְזִי בְּכָל לֵב בַּת יְרוּשָׁלִָם: הֵסִיר יְ-ה-ו-ָה מִשְׁפָּטַיִךְ פִּנָּה אֹיְבֵךְ מֶלֶךְ יִשְׂרָאֵל יְ-ה-ו-ָה בְּקִרְבֵּךְ לֹא תִירְאִי רָע עוֹד, sing, O daughter of Tziyon! Sound the trumpet, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart. O daughter of Jerusalem! HaShem has removed your judgments; He has cleared away your enemy. The King of Israel, HaShem, is in your midst, you will never again feel evil. Thus, we see that when HaShem vanquishes one’s enemies, one exults and praises HaShem. When we acknowledge that HaShem is Almighty, we then turn to Him in prayer.

Shabbos Stories

This Rebbe is OK!

Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: Often the readers of Faxhomily and Drasha send in stories from anthologies or personal reminiscences that I might be able to use in future faxes. Here is one that I received not long ago, though, unfortunately, I do not have the name of the author. He related the following revealing story: I remember my wife’s grandfather of blessed memory. He was a shochet (butcher), a Litvishe Yid (Lithuanian Jew). He was a very sincere and honest Jew. He lived in Kentucky, and later in life he moved to Cincinnati. In his old age he came to New York, and that is where he saw Chassidim for the first time. There were not too many Chasidim in Kentucky and Cincinnati. Once he went to a heart doctor in New York. While he was waiting, the door opened and a distinguished Chasidic Rebbe walked in accompanied by his gabbai (personal assistant). It seems that the Rebbe had a very urgent matter to discuss with the doctor, who probably told him to come straight into the office. The gabbai walked straight to the door and ushered the Rebbe in to see the doctor. Before going in, the Rebbe saw my grandfather waiting there. The Rebbe went over to my grandfather and said, “I want to ask you a favor. I am going to be with the doctor just one minute, if it’s okay with you. If it’s not okay with you, I won’t go in. One minute is all I need.” My wife’s grandfather said okay, and the Rebbe went inside. He was in there for a minute or so, and then he came back out. The gabbai was ready to march straight out the door, but the Rebbe walked over to him again, and said, “Was it okay with you? I tried hard to make it short. I think it was just a minute or two that I was there. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.” Later my wife’s grandfather said to me, “I don’t know much about Chassidim and Rebbes, but there’s one Rebbe that I could tell you is okay.”

Degradation for his Benefit

Rabbi Kamenetzky writes further: Rav Yosef Poesner was the son-in-law of the Nodeh B’Yehuda, the esteemed Rav of Prague. He was a brilliant scholar and an amazingly righteous individual. During his entire life, he seemed to be plagued by a nagging wife who would belittle him at every opportunity. After a brilliant lecture, she would come into the room, and belittle him. During meetings at which his opinion was prominently sought, she would serve the company food, but at the same time she made sure to deride him. During all these outbursts, he never said a word. He never defended himself. In fact, he hung his head low, as if to agree with her words of derision. Then, suddenly, he passed away. Hundreds came to the funeral. All of the gathered contrasted his greatness to the difficult life he had led, by being married to a shrew of a wife who was about to bury him. After the eulogies, his wife suddenly appeared before the coffin, crying uncontrollably. She begged his permission to speak and then burst into tears. “All these years,” she cried, “I fulfilled the adage that a loyal wife fulfills the wishes of her husband. And due to my loyalty and respect to you and your greatness, I did whatever you had asked me to. But now that you are in the world of the truth, I can finally say the truth.” She began to declare her respect for his greatness and humility, his piety and patience, his kindness and compassion. The people near the coffin were shocked to see this woman transformed into a loving, grieving widow. And then the true shock came. She continued her soliloquy. “Despite how difficult it was for me, I kept the promise and commitment you had asked me to make. Any time you were treated honorably, or were asked to fulfill a prestigious role, you told me to come in and belittle you as strongly as possible. You were afraid that the honor they afforded you would make you haughty. I only complied because that was your will!” “But now I can finally say the truth!” But that was only in front of people! “You know how much I appreciated and cherished you!” She continued to cry over the great tzaddik and lifelong companion she lost. The stunned grievers were shocked at the tremendous devotion of the Rebbetzin, who deemed herself a harrying nag all for the sake of her husband’s wishes. (

Shabbos in Halacha

הכנה – Preparing for a Weekday

 Limitations to the Prohibition

Under the prohibition of preparing, one is only prohibited from performing genuine acts of preparation that bring about actual benefit. One would be permitted, however, to perform actions that merely prevent spoilage.

To illustrate this point: One is prohibited from cleaning a room that will no longer be occupied on Shabbos, for doing so simply prepares the room for a post-Shabbos function. Accordingly, if the Seudah Shlishis (the Shabbos afternoon meal) ends late and there is no purpose in having the room cleaned on Shabbos, one must refrain from cleaning off the table until Mo’tzai Shabbos. However, one is permitted to take perishable goods from the table and refrigerate them to avoid spoilage, despite the fact that these foods will not be eaten until after Shabbos.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Shoftim 5776

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New Stories Shoftim 5776

Missing My Mother, Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

To the world she was a survivor and trailblazing visionary. To me and my siblings she was our mother who was always there for us.

by Slovie Jungreis-Wolff

These are most difficult words for me to write. Today I got up from sitting shiva for my beloved mother, Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis. For seven days I opened my mother’s front door, waiting for her beautiful smile to greet me. I walked into my mother’s kitchen where photos of all her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren plastered the walls. I looked for her but her chair was empty. The pain is raw. Where is my beautiful Ema?

To the world she was The Rebbetzin. The Jewish soul on fire. Powerhouse, visionary, survivor of Bergen-Belsen, founder of Hineni, charismatic speaker who packed Madison Square Garden, trailblazer in the world of outreach, and a woman who fearlessly traveled across the globe igniting the spark she believed lay dormant within every Jew.

While sitting shiva we met people who came from far to share their stories of connection. Some spoke of her blessings that brought children and healing; others of her Torah teachings that helped bring peace to their divided families. Couples who met through her matchmaking shared pictures of sons and daughters who bring joy to our people. Men and women recounted incredible tales of being inspired to discover Judaism and leave assimilation behind.

My tears joined with those who came to offer consolation. They tried hard to express their words but many simply could not speak. The grief was overwhelming. Over and over, I heard, “We lost our Bubby.” “We lost our Torah Ema.”

A great light has been extinguished. Our world has dimmed.

To me and my siblings the Rebbetzin was our Ema. She was my mother who was always there for me, loved me, guided me and gave me life. After each baby I would return home where my mother rocked my newborns to sleep singing the Shema.

To our children and grandchildren, she was ‘Bubba’. How she adored us and made each child feel as if they were the favorite one.

Whenever we would visit, Bubba would insist on walking us to the door. We kissed Bubba and said goodbye. My mother placed her hands on our heads and gave us her blessing. She would always shed tears. Once outside she would call us back. “One more blessing,” she would say. “As long as I am alive, always come back for one more blessing.”

Down the driveway we would turn. Bubba was still standing there. Her lips were moving. She was whispering her blessings. She’d wave and we would wave back. A few more steps before her figure was just a dot. But we knew that she had not budged. She was still watching us, not letting us out of her sight. Constant prayer on her lips.

When my mother was a small child, before deportations to the concentration camps had begun, young Hungarian Jewish men were drafted for slave labor. Szeged, my mother’s hometown, was their stopover. Zaydah, my grandfather, was the Rabbi of the city so my grandparents’ home became their refuge. Soon after, they were shipped away. These young men were forced to wear yellow armbands identifying them as hated Jews. But at my grandparents’ table they were transformed. They studied the holy books and were enveloped with love. Yellow badges of shame became badges of honor. When the hour would come for them to take leave, Zayda would place his hands on each young man’s head. He would cry and give his blessing. Then he would accompany them to the door and whisper blessings until they were out of sight.

Out of the ashes, my mother brought Zayda’s blessings home to us, the next generation.

My mother’s Book of Psalms is worn, the pages frayed, saturated with her tears. How many times we would call her with our burdens, asking my mother to shake the heavens above with her prayers. Each time a grandchild went into labor, it was Bubba whose number we dialed. “Ema, please daven,” we would ask, no matter the hour.

Who will pray for us now? Who will bless us? Who will see the hidden miracle that lies within each of us?

When my mother looked at you she saw beyond your body. She saw your soul, the ‘pintele Yid’. Though I was just a little girl I will forever remember sitting in Madison Square Garden with thousands of Jews from every walk of life. My mother passionately proclaimed “within every Jew there lies is a spark, a flicker of a light, a tiny flame. And if you wish it that tiny flame can become a great fire from which the words Hineni, here am I, my God, shall emerge. My children, shuvu banim, come home.”

My mother brought the Jewish nation home with her love and unwavering belief in God. The flames of the Holocaust that consumed our great grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and infant cousins only strengthened her conviction.

As our children grew, all the cousins would sleep over my parents’ home for Shabbos. Friday night after the meal they would run down the stairs and quickly get into their pajamas. “Bubba tell us a story from when you were a little girl.” My mother would share how she had stood in the freezing cold of Bergen Belsen feeling frightened, eyes glued to the ground. She put her hand in her pocket and felt a crumpled piece of paper. Somehow her father had placed the words of the Shema in her pocket. “It was only a piece of paper but it told me that I was not alone, that my God lived. Slowly, I lifted my eyes.”

My mother connected us to our roots. She made us understand that if we don’t know where we’ve come from we cannot possibly know where we are going. She taught us how to live with hope. She created a legacy of emunah, pure faith. She embedded within me the understanding that no matter the darkness, we are a nation of miracles. God is watching over us. Never stop believing. Never be afraid. No matter how you have fallen there is no barrier between us and God.

Ema, my heart is full. I miss hearing your voice. Your seat at my Shabbos table is waiting for you. We ache for your blessings.

Thank you, Ema, for your footsteps. We will try to kindle your light and continue your mission.

And please, Ema, pray for us in the heavens above. Because we are all your children. (

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